Category Archives: Serial Fiction

The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 12

Photo by Alexa Popovich on

Steel Brandenburg III felt the presence of a large wild animal as he stood on the back patio of the Gould house. He could hear the animal struggling to breathe. He turned to see her there with a disappointed look on her face.

“Can you please explain what that was all about?” Carrie said to him.

He called himself back to reality. “The guy is a jerk. He’s an a-hole.”

“He’s the pastor of my church, and a guest in my home.” Carrie waved her hand around in the air. “And must you smoke? It’s disgusting.”

Steel turned on her. “Must you eat five-hundred pounds of food every time you sit down at a table!?”

Carrie’s face began to sour, her bottom lip trembled. “Must you always be so cruel to me? Why can’t you just love me?”

Steel laughed. “Love? You’ve lost your marbles.” He pointed with his cigarette hand. “Everyone in there has lost their marbles.”

“Will you please just come back inside? And I want you to apologize for your abhorrent behavior.”

Steel sighed, took one last drag, and tossed the cigarette aside. Part of him wanted to just tell her to ‘fuck off.’ Part of him wanted to just walk away and be done with it all. But then there was a part of him that wanted to see things through for some curiously sick reason he didn’t fully understand. Did he really care about Carrie Gould? How could he? “All right, all right,” he relented. Maybe he just wanted her like an animal. “Just get off my back.”

She half-smiled at him and went to hug him. Her plump body felt good in his arms, Steel thought. She even smelled kind of nice. He moved to kiss her, but she turned away. “Gross. Not until you brush your teeth and use some mouthwash,” she told him.

Once back inside and with apologies made, Steel helped Mother Melba clear the table and clean the dishes. They stood side-by-side at the kitchen sink, quiet at first, with only the clinking of dinnerware and water running forth from the spout to be heard. He stared out the window as he lackadaisically ran a dish towel over a plate. He wanted to run, but at the same time he wanted to stay there forever. She nudged him with her elbow.

“Penny for your thoughts,” she said, and then she chuckled. “I guess these days I better ask for a quarter.”

Steel snarled to himself on the inside. He wanted to punch her in the face or hold her head down in the soapy dishwater. “Do you ever wonder how you get yourself into a particular situation. I mean, even with all the best intentions and planning and trying to do the right thing, you always end up in a bad situation?”

She turned to look at him with a certain degree of concern. “You think you’re in a bad situation?”

“Not this,” he assured her. “But this job I have and this town I find myself living in. How did I end up here if everything I aimed for was the exact opposite of this? How does that happen? How is it I stumble over my own feet so badly?”

“Well, Steel… I believe you were moved by the Holy Spirit, but you’ve been resistant,” Mother Melba said. “I believe the Lord has brought you here for a reason. It was out of your control. You shouldn’t fight it so much. He has plans for you.” She tapped the back of his hand with her wet one. It gave him chills for some reason, and he leaned over and kissed her cheek. She turned her mouth to him and let him kiss her there.

She suddenly pulled away. “Oh, dear,” she said.

“I’m sorry… No, I’m not,” Steel confessed, and he kissed her again.

Mother Melba put her hands on his chest and backed him away. “No, Steel. This isn’t right. You’re Carrie’s fella.”

He pulled her closer to him and put a hand between her legs. “I’m being moved by the Holy Spirit,” he whispered.

Pastor Craig Stikk stood by the large window in the front room of the Gould house. He looked out and sipped at his coffee, his eyes narrow. Carrie was sitting politely in a nearby easy chair. “You know, Carrie. When Jesus was on the cross, you could see his ribs. He was thin.” He turned from the window to look at her. “But it seems to me that you would prefer to eat ribs. I can just imagine the sloppy barbecue sauce all over your face.” He nodded toward her body. “Blubber like that was never part of Christ’s life.”

Carrie gave him a confused look. “Pastor?”

“Look, I saw how you ate at dinner. You probably don’t realize it, but you’re gluttonous… And gluttony is a sin, Carrie.”

She bowed her head in shame. “I know. I’m sorry, pastor. It’s a constant battle for me.”

“And a battle you’re losing… But I could help you with that,” he said with a sly grin and a twinkle in his perverted eyes.

She perked up just as he began to walk over to where she was sitting. He moved around to the back of her chair. He set his coffee cup down on a side table and subtly leaned an arm over her shoulder. His hand lightly landed on one of her large breasts. He kept it there as he continued, rhythmically kneading her like tender bread dough. “I could help you focus on other things. I could help you fight the temptation to stuff yourself… With food, that is.”

Her head whirled around to look up at him. “A Bible diet?”

He laughed. “No. A love diet.”

“A love diet?”

“I could be your sustenance, Carrie. Let me be your everlasting sustenance.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“Then I’ll just come out and say it, Carrie… I’m hungry, too. But I’m hungry for you.” He came around to the front of the chair and knelt before her. He took her hands in his. “He’s not right for you. I’m right for you. We’re right for each other. You deserve to be loved better than how he loves you. I mean, you couldn’t even call it love, what he gives you. Steel’s not dedicated to you, Carrie. I could be dedicated to you.” He suddenly let his head drop down between her legs and he inhaled deeply. “My God, Carrie,” he said in a muffled tone. “I must have you. God has spoken to me, and He has told me that you are my only hope for a proper lust.”

She let her hands go to his head. She played with his hair as she pulled him in closer to her feminine depths. “Yes, pastor,” she mumbled. “Yes, yes, yes.”


The Cowmen (Three)

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Inside the Camaro Saloon, Arno got caught up in an uneasy game of poker with a scroungy bunch of other cowmen. He sat at the round table topped with worn, green felt and a pile of chips in the center of it. His back was to the window, the scurrying of the mud street behind him. His eyes scanned the semicircle of faces studying their hands. He was already down a few bucks.

“So, where are you from anyhow?” one of the others asked him, looking up at him with suspicion. “I’ve never seen you in town before.” The man looked like a haggard leprechaun dressed like an overworked rancher.  

Arno’s answer was simple and to the point. “Up north.”

“Up north is a mighty big place, stranger,” another player said just as he folded his hand. He was a young, studious looking man with glasses and wearing a clean, white shirt.

“That it is,” Arno answered, but he was more focused on his cards. He laid down a full house. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about,” he said, laughing, and he cupped his rough hand around the small pile of chips in the center of the table and pulled them to him. He smiled at the others over his win.

“Damn it all to hell!” the one that looked like a haggard leprechaun said. “I’m done.” He got up and walked over to the bar. A couple of the others did the same leaving only the young man and Arno at the table.

“Thought I saw you ride in with another fellow. Where’s he at?” the young man asked.

Arno glared at him. “You sure seem to have a healthy curiosity about me, us. What gives?”

“Nothing. I just like to know who’s coming into my town. I’m the sheriff.” The man pulled on a vest that revealed his badge. “Sheriff Payne’s the name.”

“Is pain your game?” Arno said with a mocking chuckle.

“I don’t find that funny, mister.”

Arno adjusted his manner. “Sorry… But I gotta say, you’re awful young to be sheriff.”

“I may be young, sir. But I’m full of spirit when it comes to upholding the law. I take my job seriously.”

“Congratulations on all your success then,” Arno said, and he started to get up. He extended his hand across the table and the sheriff got up as well and returned the gesture.

Arno introduced himself. “Arno Pyle,” he said. “I suppose I should go round up my partner. Any suggestions on a good place to stay for the night?”

The sheriff nodded out the window and across the street. “The Saint James is about the best you’ll get,” he said. The sheriff fastened a hat to his head and began to walk toward the exit. He turned. “Enjoy your stay in Sudan, sir. I hope we don’t meet again.” He walked out into the nearly dying light of day.

Hosea politely sat at the table in the kitchen as she prepared him a lemonade. The room smelled like fruit in a cool cellar. He looked around at the warm comfort of the place. It was neat, clean, orderly. “Do you live in this big place all by yourself?” he asked her.

Sadie turned for a moment. She was well put together, soft features, bright. “It was my father’s. I took it on after he passed. But yes, it’s all mine and just mine,” Sadie said.

“Don’t you ever get scared,” Hosea asked.


“You know, of being alone in the house. Especially at night. I mean, I would be. I don’t like to be all alone in big, dark places.”

She brought a pitcher and a glass to the table and set them down before him. “Help yourself. Care for a scone?”

“What the hell’s a scone?” Hosea wanted to know as he poured himself a glass of the lemonade.

“She laughed at his question. “It’s sort of like a thick cookie.”

“Sure… But like I was wondering. You don’t get scared all alone in a place like this?”

“You sure seem interested in my tolerance for fear, Mr. Hosea.”

“It’s just Hosea.”

“I’m used to the big house. I feel at peace here. I don’t feel any fear.” She came back to the table with a small white plate and a scone sitting atop it. “Here you go. It’s cranberry.”

“Thank you, mam. So, there’s really no one else that lives here?”

“No,” Sadie said. “You seem very surprised that a woman could take on such a task as living in a big house by herself and keeping peacocks and making scones and lemonade. I’m quite capable of it all, Hosea.”

“Well, then you’re a stronger person than me. I suppose I just have a nervous constitution. I carry a lot of fear and doubt with me. The way the world is turning these days, faster and faster, it’s hard to find someone or something to trust, to believe in.”

Sadie came to the table and sat with him. She nodded her head. “I suppose that can be true… If you focus on it. I try not to. I try to focus on my life here and my peacocks and just trying to be a good person.”

“And no fear, huh? Not even in your dreams?”

“I can never remember my dreams,” she said. “So, they don’t really affect me.”

“I always dream about being inside one of those big fancy factories they’re starting up these days for the manufacturing. I’m always just wandering around inside, and the machines are making noise and the tired and oily people are working and no one ever looks at me or talks to me. It’s like I’m invisible but I’m not. I always see the big windows that let in light, but you can’t see through. Block glass is what I think they call it… There’s light but nothing is clear. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

“I can’t say I do.”

“Anyways… I always end up in an office or something like that in the upstairs part where the big shots run the show, and I’m all by myself and there’s this weird contraption on a desk that looks like a typewriter, but it isn’t a typewriter because it lights up and shows me pictures when I tap the keys…”

Sadie was entranced as he talked. He was such an odd man, she thought. “What kinds of pictures?”

Hosea flashed her a little grin. “Pictures of peacocks.”

She jerked back in surprise. “That’s strange. Very strange.”

“It is strange,” Hosea agreed. “And that’s why I wanted to know if you ever feal fear.”

She stared at him for a moment. Hosea’s face had lost its innocent and trustworthy look. “I think I’m afraid now,” she whispered.

Hosea’s right hand suddenly shot forward and grasped her by the neck. He stood and forced more pressure down upon her throat. He squeezed and squeezed. She struggled to try and pull his hand away, but it was useless. He was too strong. Her face was contorted, she gasped, her skin turned color, she went limp, and then he released her to the floor.

His heart beat wildly in his chest as he looked down upon her. A clock ticked away on a shelf and then struck the high five hour. He quickly moved about the house to find and pocket things of value before vanishing from the house to return to Arno.


The Morbid Mind Correctional Facility (3)

Photo by Kristal Tereziu on

Magda Balls looked at her two new guests, her back was up against the stove in the kitchen, a cigarette smoke stream trailing from her shapely hand. Rosalina and the Huffing Man were sitting at the table in her lakeside bungalow eating tomato soup and oyster crackers. The man had an iced tea to drink, the girl a milk.

“Did you know MILK in Dutch and Norwegian is MELK,” Magda said, looking at the girl.

Rosalina crinkled her nose. “Huh?”

“MILK is pronounced MELK in both Dutch and Norwegian… I’m studying new languages.”

The Huffing Man wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and looked at her. “I spent some time in Amsterdam, but I never drank any MELK there.” He just as quickly went back to eating his soup and crackers.

“They have naughty peep shows in Amsterdam,” Rosalina said. “And marijuana is legal. Did you get high and look at boobies?”

“No,” the Huffing Man insisted. “I was there on business… Back when my life wasn’t a shattered mess, or was it?” His thoughts trailed off into the air and he watched them bounce away.

Magda laughed at the girl. “How do you know about all that?”

“I know a lot of things. I read, surf the net, watch movies, things like that. I’m very worldly for 10.2 years old.”

“I can tell,” Magda laughed. “If you two don’t mind, I’m going to hit the shower. Make yourselves at home.”

The Huffing Man looked up at Magda and gave her a shy smile. His face, with its sandpaper sheen, was tired and haggard. “Thank you… For the food and for helping me out.”

Magda smiled back. “You’re welcome.”

Rosalina plopped herself down in a comfy couch in the front room and played with a remote control. The Huffing Man joined her. She looked over at him sadly. “Can I ask you something?”

“I suppose you can.”

“Why do you huff gas?”

He sighed. “Well, it’s a long, sad story I’m afraid. I don’t want to trouble a young girl with such adult things.”

“It’s okay. I can handle it. I’m very mature.”

“Well, let’s just say I have a lot of personal problems.”

“Like what?”

The Huffing Man laughed at her innocent inquisitiveness, then sighed. “I feel incredibly invisible to a lot of people in my life. I suppose I don’t feel very loved.”

Rosalina looked down. “I know what you mean. I don’t feel very loved either. That’s why I ran away from my foster parents.”

“Foster parents?”

“My Pee and Em were killed in a hot air balloon crash in Arizona.”

“Pee and Em?”

“My dad and mum. I got the words from A Clockwork Orange. It’s my favorite movie. It’s part of this weird language they speak that’s sort of like Russian slang mixed with Old English. I bet we can find it on Netflix or HBO if you want to watch it with me.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“What! Where have you been, living under a rock?”

“Yes, I suppose I have been.”

It’s a brutal and satirical look at the crisis of crime and subsequent punishment in a withering dystopian society… The story revolves around the strange life of a young hoodlum and his gang of droogs. But it goes far beyond that. It’s a mind fuck, really,” Rosalina said. “A total mind fuck.”

“Oh, really? I’m intrigued.”

Rosalina excitedly sat up on the edge of the couch and scanned through channels until she found the movie. “Here it is!”

The Huffing Man gestured with his head toward the sound of the running shower. “Do you think she’ll be okay with it?”

“I don’t think she’ll care. She’s pretty cool.”

“All right then. Fire it up.”

“Doobie doo,” Rosalina said with a giggle.


“Just watch.”

The chilling close-up image of Alex DeLarge in the Korova Milk Bar suddenly appeared on the screen. The gonging synthesized opening soundtrack filled the room.

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milk Bar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milk Bar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet, or synthemesc, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence…

Rosalina looked over at the Huffing Man and his eyes were wide with wonder. “Freaky, huh?” she whispered.

“I’d say,” he whispered back.

Magda Balls came into the room with wet hair and fresh summer clothes that clung to her tall, svelte body. “What are you two watching?”

“A Clockwork Orange,” Rosalina told her, and then she pressed pause on the remote. “But we can’t have disturbances. We need to fully concentrate on the film in order to absorb all its subtle nuances.”

Magda laughed. “Okay. I’ll just go out onto the deck and read then. That okay?”

“Sure,” Rosalina said with a shrug. “It’s your house.”

“That it is,” Magda said, and she smacked her lips, grabbed a book off the coffee table and slipped outside.

Rosalina resumed the film and the Huffing Man relaxed into the couch. He watched the movie as its bizarreness unfolded and even though the pictures on the screen were mesmerizing, he couldn’t help that his mind drifted away to his own inner turmoil. He tried to turn his head and look at the girl beside him, but his neck seemed inoperable, he seemed frozen, felt dead almost. He wondered if he had finally done enough damage with all that gas huffing.

The film was long and when it was over, the Huffing Man got up off the couch and stretched. He glanced out through the glass of the veranda door and saw that Magda had migrated to a short dune on the beach. He looked at Rosalina. “I think I’m going to go take a walk… In the other direction.”

“Okay,” she said, as she skimmed through channels in search of something new to watch.

“Would you like to join me? I mean, you can’t just watch the television all day. Maybe we can find something to eat.”

Rosalina pressed the power button on the remote and looked up at him. “You’re right. And I should come with you… To keep you on the straight and narrow. Because, I hope you weren’t planning on running off to huff some gas.”

“No. But it doesn’t feel good not to huff.”

“I’m sure it sucks, but you’ll feel better,” the girl said. “I’ll help you ride the rough waves out.”

“That’s awful kind of you,” he said with a genuine smile. “Shall we?” He reached out to grasp her hand at the door and she took it.


The Moon Scars of Elysium (2)

Photo by Aaron Echoes August /

Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.

A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.

Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”

He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.

And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”

“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”

The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.

“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.

The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”

Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.

The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.

“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”

The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.

Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”

Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”

The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.

“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”

The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”

After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”

“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”

“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.

Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”


Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.

“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”

“Where’s home?”

“Buena Vista, Colorado.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place, mostly.”

“Well, I hope you can get back there.”

“Me, too.”


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 11

Photo by Pixabay on

The Gould house smelled like Sunday dinner and the trappings of commercialized religion. The house itself was one of the large old Victorians that rose like a classic architectural sentinel on the north side of town near the overlooking cliff rock and the only considerable clusters of trees in the whole of Berlin, Wyoming. It was often dubbed the “green side” of town because that’s where the main city park and the walking trails and the cemetery were, and where the little green men from space lived in their log cabin commune.

The homestead where Carrie Gould and her mother lived was a tall, gaudy pink and white haunted candy palace with a nice kept yard full of colorful flowers. The interior was tidy, but gaudy as well, flooded with knick-knacks and bric-a-brac and portraits of white Jesus in a doctor’s gown, and soft sheep, and framed cross-stitch Bible verses on the walls. But still, there was a flip chill in the air, an icy bastard lingering in the shadows.

Despite all the clutter, the house was warm and inviting. The furniture was soft and friendly. The windows were clean and clear. The intentions of the after Sunday service meal, however, were not.

Pastor Craig Stikk and Steel Brandenburg III sat in the front parlor part of the house sipping coffee in an uncomfortable silence as they waited for the meal to be served. There was a heart of cruel intent in the room and Steel put his hand to his chest to feel if it was his own. He wasn’t sure it was. Intent. Intentions.

Then the pastor asked. “So, Steel. What are your intentions with our lovely Miss Carrie?” He sipped at his coffee annoyingly, his black jellybean eyes searching above the tipped brim of the cup as he waited for an answer.

“I’m not sure, pastor. Our relationship has just begun. We’re exploring each other,” Streel said, and he smiled to himself deep inside.

But the pastor frowned at his remark, and then shifted. “And speaking of relationships… Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”

Steel laughed. “No. He never returned my calls, so I dropped him.”

A look of painful concern passed over Pastor Stikk’s perverted face. His pencil-thin moustache wriggled with distaste for the young man. “Steel. That’s not something to take so lightly. A personal relationship with your Lord and Savior is the most important thing in life. Do you not care to tend to your eternal soul?”

“Look, I’m not religious. I never had a taste for it, and I certainly don’t want my face pushed into it.”

“I’m not trying to push your face in it… I’m just saying that, well, Carrie is a very religious person, and don’t you think she should be with someone who shares in her beliefs? Don’t you believe she should be with someone who fosters and encourages her faith?”

Steel drained his coffee cup and set it down. He looked straight across at the pastor and grinned his cocky grin. “You mean someone like you?”

The pastor shifted in his seat and then leaned forward and whispered, “Frankly, yes. Life is too short not to be bold. I do indeed believe I would be a better mate to her, and I’m sorry if this offends you, but I don’t believe you’re good enough for her.”

Steel scoffed. “I don’t understand why everyone in this town thinks I’m such a horrible person.”

The pastor leaned away from him. “Well, maybe you are. Perhaps some deep personal soul searching is in order then, Steel. Other people obviously must see far deeper than you do. Personally, I’d be ashamed of myself.”

“I don’t need everyone shaming me and telling me how to live my life. People need to stop being so damn judgmental. That’s what I can’t stand about religion—the self-righteous attitude. Did your God make you and everyone else God? And this whole pointless conversation boils down to one thing: You want to get with my girl. Gross. Aren’t you like 20 years older than her?”

“I believe Carrie needs a mature man in her life,” the pastor said.

“And that’s where you fit in?”

“Steel, God spoke to me on this matter. The Lord Himself told me I should take Carrie as my own. Me. Not you. And I cannot disobey God. She will be mine, not yours.”

“Well, I’m not going to just turn her over to you. I haven’t even gotten any action from her yet.”

The pastor slapped a palm to his forehead in disbelief. “Good gravy, Steel. Must you speak of her in that way? It’s so disrespectful and Carrie doesn’t deserve it.”



“You said something about gravy… This is how this whole story started. Gravy.”

“You’re rambling incoherently, Steel. ‘Good gravy’… It’s a term used when someone is expressing befuddlement… And you are befuddling me.”

It was at that point that Mother Melba Gould came bouncing into the room. “Gentleman! I bring good news. Dinner is ready. Please come to the table.”

The great Sunday feast was spread out on the large dining room table atop a precious cloth. They all took a seat and Melba called upon Pastor Stikk to lead the prayer.

He stood, cleared his throat, and bowed his head. “Dear Lord, we ask that you look upon us with your everlasting grace and mercy as we prepare to enjoy this beautiful meal prepared by these two lovely women, your humble servants. We ask that we gain an understanding of and appreciation for your boundless gifts, such as these before us. Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day and the opportunity for myself, Steel, lovely Carrie and Melba to come together in this beautiful home to commune with each other among these overflowing dishes. May we find sustenance and joy, and may this togetherness not only satisfy the hunger of our bodies, but also the hunger of our faith. Amen.” He sat back down, unfurled a napkin, and tucked it into his shirt collar. “Well, let’s eat.”

Platters and bowls were soon being passed around as everyone filled their plates with tender pot roast and carrots, a green-bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, niblets of buttered corn, a chilled spiral macaroni salad, beef noodle soup, spring rolls, sweet potato casserole, cheese chunks and crackers, fun fruit-filled gelatin, pickled beets and black olives, tapioca pudding, cranberry sauce, buttered rolls, wild rice pilaf, and goblets of iced tea, lemonade, and cold milk. Knives and forks and spoons quickly began to work, and they clinked against the Gould’s finest dinnerware as they moved like robots and the eating began.

“Thank you, pastor,” Melba said with a smile. “That was a beautiful blessing over our table.”

“It was my pleasure, Melba,” the pastor replied. “As you and your lovely daughter are a great pleasure to me.” He moved his hand beneath the table and squeezed at her thigh. Melba blushed and went “Ooooh.”

Steel coughed and reached for a glass of moo juice and drank.

“Everything okay there, Steel?” The pastor asked. “You seem choked up by something.”  

“I’m fine. Thank you. Something just went down the wrong pipe.”

“Pipe. Right,” the pastor replied with a sneer. “Speaking of pipe… Carrie, I was hoping you and Steel would start up some counseling sessions with me.”

“Counseling?” Steel wondered aloud. “What for?”

“Well, Steel. I often counsel young couples on the ways of Christian-based male-female relationships. It’s spiritual guidance really as you two walk with God along the path of love and eventually marriage.”

“I’m not…” Steel began, but Carrie broke in after a quick, tight-lipped smile aimed at him.

“We would love to, pastor. I think your guidance would be priceless. Thank you for offering.”

“Not a problem. That’s part of what I do in my role as the lead shepherd for the congregation.” He chuckled oddly. “I must look over my flock.” He smiled big and then glanced over at Steel who was sitting across from him and next to Carrie. “I just want to be sure that God is always a part of your togetherness.”

“I thought I made it clear to you in the other room earlier that I’m not religious,” Steel broke in. “I don’t want or need counseling in spiritual matters… Especially when it comes to our relationship. That’s our business, not yours.”

Melba Gould’s mouth dropped open and some of the beef noodle soup dribbled out. “You’re not religious?”

“Not especially, mam.” Steel answered. “The mountains of my life have never been moved much by faith.”

 The room was silent for a moment.

“Well then, Steel,” the pastor said as he speared another slice of ham with his fork and put it on his plate. “Then you need it more than anyone.”

Carrie grasped his hand. “It’s important to me, Steel. I don’t think I can carry on in this relationship if you’re not a man of faith. You’ll be amazed by what God can do for you if you just let him in.”

Steel looked around the table. “You know, there’s such a thing as religious freedom. Meaning, I have just as much right not to be religious as you all have to be religious. And Carrie, baby, I just want you to accept me for who I am.”

“And she has…” the pastor began, but Steel put a finger up toward his face. “With all due respect, pastor, this is not for you to decide.”

“I beg to differ, young man,” the pastor snarled in return. “As a leader in the church, it’s my responsibility to watch over and guide her faith.” He slammed his fist down on the table. “It’s my God-given earthly task and I will not allow a non-believer to soil this beautiful young woman’s soul!”

Steel stood and barked, “All you truly care about is getting in her pants! And I’m not going to let that happen!” He looked around at the shocked faces. “My apologies Ms. Gould. I think I’ll step outside for some air.”


Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (4)

Allison Grundy stood in her front yard behind the safety of a white-picket fence and a grouchy demeanor. She had binoculars set against her sour face and she was watching the chorus of children playing out in the street and the neighboring yards. The song of stimulating play played up and down the roadway. “Damn, rotten kids,” she grumbled to herself. “So many damn kids. Who the hell is doing all this humping to make so many damn kids!?”

There was a man behind her, and he was busy fixing the broken window on the front of the house from when someone threw a rock through it. “What’s that, Ms. Grundy?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Pascal,” she grunted without turning to look at him. She was too deeply focused in on the kids in the street.

“Oh, sorry. How’d this happen anyway?”

Ms. Grundy lowered the binoculars and turned around. “How’d it happen? See those damn kids clogging up the street?”

Pascal turned and craned his neck to look. “Yeah… It was them kids that did it?”

“That’s right,” she croaked. “One of them damn kids threw a rock and busted out that very window you’re fixing there. I could have been killed! Of course, none of the little shits came over to admit it or apologize or even offer to pay to fix it. They victimized me and now look at them… Playing around like little fantastical faeries.”

Pascal sighed. “Little bastards. You know what the problem with kids these days is, Ms. Grundy?”

“Oh, my. Please, Pascal, enlighten me with your what will surely be invaluable insight.”

“Hey… If you don’t want to talk, just say so.”

“No, no, no. I’m listening.”

Pascal scrunched his face. He removed his company ball cap and wiped the sweat from his head with his sleeve. “Geez. It sure is warm today. What do you say when I’m done here, we go inside. I could sure use a cold drink… And we can talk some more. I can lay out my philosophy. I’m not just some window man, you know. I’ve got a lot of good ideas.”

Ms. Grundy scowled. “That’s awful pushy of you, Pascal.”

“I have confidence in myself. Is that a problem for you?”

“No. Is my abrasiveness a problem for you?”

“Hell no. I deal with assholes all day. Not to say you’re an asshole, Ms. Grundy.”

“I appreciate that… All right, go on with your work and I’ll fix us a pitcher of my delicious lemonade.” She cackled to herself all the way into the house.

Pascal Bravo the window man noted to himself that the house smelled of bitter oldness. He waited politely in a small parlor room with antique furniture, pleasant bookshelves, and a large window that looked out onto the world of rambunctious youngsters playing in the neighborhood.

Ms. Grundy walked into the room carrying a trembling tray with a buxom pitcher of swirling lemonade with ice cubes and two inverted glasses. She set the tray onto a table and sat in the chair opposite him. She leaned forward, plucked up one of the glasses and poured. “I’ll let you do your own, Pascal. I’ll never be slave to a man.”

Pascal smiled, leaned forward, and poured his own glass. “Thanks very much. I really like this room. You must enjoy reading.”

“I do. When I have the peace and quiet. But again. Those damn kids. I was considering moving to a place of isolation on the outskirts of town… But I fear I’m beyond the ability to do so now. Too old. Too much work. I must come up with a better way to deal with all this commotion in the neighborhood… And violence! Like I told you, the rock.”

“Well,” Pascal began, beaming with self-importance. “Like I was saying in the yard. The whole problem with kids these days is they have no discipline. And without discipline there’s no respect for others and what belongs to others.”

“You speak the truth, Pascal. It’s the parents I blame, and the parents’ parents. They are far too busy with their own damn lives to care about what the children are up to. They just let them run wild like Indians.”

Pascal cleared his throat. “I believe the correct term is Native Americans.”

“Whooey!” snapped Ms. Grundy. “This is my house and I’ll use whatever god damn words I want to.”

Pascal took a big gulp of the lemonade. “Ahh, that is tart, Ms. Grundy. But cold and refreshing just the same… But like I was saying. Kids these days get to do whatever they want. They have little to no guidance. No rules. No consequences for their actions.”

“Right. No consequences,” Allison Grundy agreed. “And wouldn’t it be fun to give them some consequences? Hmmm, Pascal.”

“What? Me? You want me to do something to those kids? Because that’s sort of the vibe you’re putting off. I’m not dumb. I have a very keen intuition.”

“I’ll make it worth your while if you help me.”

“What do you mean? Just what is it you plan to do to these kids?”

“Your spine seems to be shrinking, Pascal. Tisk, tisk, tisk.” She wagged a finger at him while she took a gulp of the lemonade for herself.

“I won’t kill anybody,” Pascal stressed. “Not for all the money in the world.”

“I’m not talking about money or killing.”



“Then what are you talking about, Ms. Grundy?”

“Are you a married man, Pascal?”

“No, but I’ve dodged the bullet a couple of times. I’ve given up on that scenario. Now I just do my work and go home to be alone. And you know what? I prefer it that way.”

“You and I are very much alike then, Pascal. Very much alike… May I ask you something else?”


“When is the last time you’ve had any sexual relations?”

Pascal nearly emptied his mouth of the lemonade he had in it at that very moment. “What!?”

“The last time you’ve done the ol’ in-out, in-out.”

“Ms. Grundy… I think that’s a bit personal.”

“Spill the beans, Pascal. When was it?”

Pascal sighed. “If you must know. It’s been six years.”

Ms. Grundy laughed out loud. “Six years!?”

“Surely it must be something like 60 years for you!”

“Zip it, Pascal… The point is, I could do for you, and you could do for me. And when we’re not messing around, we can be messing with those little brats out wandering the neighborhood. We’ll be a team.”

Pascal stood up. “I’m not going to have sex with you. No way, no how.”

Allison Grundy snickered. “I can guarantee in due time you will change your mind.”

“I seriously doubt it.”

“Come over here.”

“What? Why?”

“Pascal… Breathe. Just go with it.”

Pascal stepped closer to her.

“Drop your pants,” she ordered.

He paused for a moment and then undid his belt buckle and let his Navy blue window man uniform pants fall to the floor. Allison Grundy looked him over and grinned. She poked at him with her finger. “Reminds me of a sea cucumber.” She looked up at him. “Let me see your cucumber.”

Pascal scoffed in frustration, pulled up his pants and turned away from her. “No. This is too gross and weird.”

“It’s okay, Pascal,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of time. But for now… Let’s figure out what we’re going to do about those rotten kids.”


The Cowmen (Two)

Arno and Hosea came to a desolate town of squat adobe structures the colors of the earth and the sun and those structures mingled with freshly hewn wooden buildings that rose above them like intimidators and boasted of great possibilities. The rise of a new civilization on top of an old one was at work again in the world. The natives were being slowly crushed out by another generation from another place, and they believed they had the better of ideas and ways of living.

The town’s name was Sudan and there was a smell of animal dung and sawdust and perfumed whores in the hot afternoon air. A wide dirt track went through the center of the town, and it and its immediate environs were lined on both sides and in the corners by the various modes of commerce and service: A bank, a jail, a general store, a hotel or two, saloons, a gunsmith, a livery stable, a butcher, a doctor, and a small train station with various people leaning or sitting as they waited upon their destinies to arrive on the rails.

Horses and wagons moved like a meandering stream up and down the main thoroughfare which was mashed by hoofs and wagon wheels. As Arno and Hosea made their way along, some of the people nodded, smiled, said “hello mister.” Ladies in blooming dresses called out to them from balconies. Other folks with roughshod faces and rubber necks watched them closely and scowled with sour intent. Some even yelled out from the wooden boardwalks where they sat on barrels to warn them that they should “watch yourselves,” merely because they were drifting strangers.

“I don’t understand why some folks need to be so hateful,” Hosea said as they worked the horses to a hitching post outside the Camaro Saloon. “I’m the nicest cowman in the world.”

“Would you stop saying that!” Arno snapped as he climbed off his horse. “It’s so damn embarrassing.”

“You’re always so worried about what other people think… I don’t care what other people think,” Hosea said. “I’m going to be who I am.”

Arno rolled his eyes. “That’s probably your problem. Let’s get a drink, or 72… And try not to say too much.”

Hosea waved his hand at the air. “Nah, you go ahead. I don’t feel much like drinkin’ and hollerin’ and carrying on right now. I think I just may go walk and stretch out these long legs of mine. I think that’s what I need.”

Arno scoffed at him. “All right then. Just don’t get yourself in trouble.”

“Look who’s talking.”

Where Hosea ended up on his wandering walkabout was into a fog thick as gauze outside of the main part of the town, and there the birds were winged phantoms of dark light and the trees were backlit spindly bodies that leaned and coughed or sat away from all the others. The air all around was a mist and there was a small flow of water that went through the middle of it all on its way to a greater fall and rush further down into the valley. Somehow, Hosea had opened a curtain and stepped inside to this lost place. He felt a warmness, but he also felt uncertainty. He also felt he wasn’t alone.

He stood on the bank of the stream and gazed into the veil of the whole western world. “I’ve been doing that a lot lately… Pulling aside curtains and stepping into lost places. There’s been a lot of thought in me about the other side. The other side of this, whatever this is,” and he looked up, raised his hands in the air. “The other side of Earth, the other side of the Milky Way and beyond. I may be a cowman, but I have a very deep river of thoughts.”

“Who are you talking to?” came a voice from somewhere behind him. “Are you praying?”

Hosea whipped around and there saw a woman… A cow woman. “No one, mam. Just myself. Not God neither.” His heart picked up speed. “What are you doing here?” he asked her as if he had a right to know.

“I gather the same reason as you. To get away from folks.” She moved closer to him. Hosea noted right away that she was pretty and that made him nervous. “Are you new to Sudan?” she asked.

“No, mam. Just passing through.” Hosea lifted the hat from his head and extended his hand. “Name’s Hosea, mam. I hope I wasn’t trespassing or something.”

She smiled at his lanky awkwardness. “I’m not a mam. I’m a Sadie.”


“That’s right. Don’t you like it?”

“It’s a fine name. Just never heard of it before.”

“Now you have.” She finally took his hand and squeezed it for a moment. “It’s nice to meet you. How long are you in town for?”

“Most likely just the night.”

“Well,” she began, and she turned and pointed. “I run that little place over there. The sea-foam green house with the little corral out on the side. It’s my peacock ranch.”

“You keep peacocks?”

“I raise ‘em and I sell ‘em. The farmers and the ranchers use them to keep down the snakes and the mice… And I just think they’re so pretty.”

“They are colorful birds,” Hose said. “Very colorful.”

“Would you like to come see them? I could fix you a lemonade or a sweet tea.”

Hosea scratched at his head as he thought about it. “I suppose that wouldn’t hurt nothin’.”